Recently, the inaugural GlobalBusiness Solutions Employment Conference was held at OR Tambo Premier Hotel. The speakers and panellists ensured that an interactive platform was created to engage some of the most important role players in the labour market. Participants included Dennis George, Tabea Kabinde, Thembi Chagonda, Justice Malala, Leon Louw, Charles Nupen, Ingrid Woolard, Elias Monage and Jonathan Goldberg. A wide variety of topics were covered from the labour landscape, the national minimum wage, equal treatment, all the way to Employment Equity.
The latter has received the most publicity recently and resulted in the conference receiving front page coverage in the Cape Times. Whilst there is so much to cover about the conference, this article unpacks Employment Equity and related discussions. Opening the proceedings was Justice Malala with his keynote “Beyond the Noise : SA Politics 2015-2025”. Justice shared some eye-opening insights with the key message being the necessity to ensure that our institutions work. Added to this was the current elephant in the room “Racism” which he feels is a discussion which is to be had internally rather than “out there”. There is no doubt a change of mindset is required in order to stride into the transformation area with confidence.
Justice’s talk laid the foundation for the Chair of the Employment Equity Commission, Tabea Kabinde. Tabea shared insights into the launch of the Employment Equity Commission’s report. The talk emphasised the need for an inclusive environment, preceded by the mindset shift listed above. Tabea shared some telling facts on Employment Equity for context in the panel debate. She emphasised that rather than being pre-occupied with reporting, organisations should first focus on the environment. Tabea concluded that the Employment Equity Act is achieving its objectives albeit not as fast as one would want.
The Cape Times built on this by highlighting Tabea’s comments that the current focus is incorrect, as it focusses on numbers rather than sustainable change. The publication also highlighted her comment that the purpose of Employment Equity is being achieved, but at a slow pace.
The talk was followed by a lively panel debate on whether Employment Equity is achieving its objectives. The panel featured Tabea, Justice and Global’s very own Thembi Chagonda (recently appointed Employment Equity Commissioner) and Johnny Goldberg. Takeouts from the debate were that there was some progress being made ; that the Commission is actively engaging all stakeholders in an attempt to improve the system as well as the need for organisations to put in the work and not just follow a tick box process which amounts to malicious compliance. Added to that a constructive engagement is required where the inspectorate not only wields the proverbial big stick but to work with business where that business is willing, to ensure sustainable compliance strategies.
The Employment Equity Commission Report was released shortly after the conference and echoed the view of participants. What it did highlight was that there is still majority white representation at senior levels and the fact that training spend at that level echoes this is concerning as this will result in the same conversations taking place 20 years from now.
One hopes that the proactive workshops of the Commission, aimed at working with all stakeholders to find sustainable solutions to bring about the change, will be met with a co-operative spirit which will result in sustainable solutions.
The Conference proved a great success and not only highlighted the issues, but provided insight into solutions which could address the concerns.